(NSFW – Strong nudity)
Your naked body by itself is sometimes weird upon observation, so imagine showing it to a bunch of strangers, for the sake of art?! Well, last Friday, I did just that. I participated in an art project that was both liberating and exhilarating!
If you were in the Times Square area that day, you might have seen my naked body. Thankfully, I was not alone. Along with more than 100 men + women, getting our bodies painted, as part of the free ‘BODY NOTES’ project aimed to promote body positivity. Considered ‘a powerful, positive visual feast’ by Cosmopolitan magazine, participants + on-lookers alike really enjoyed this event of using the naked body as a canvas to highlight different body types in bright colors. Much to my surprise + bewilderment, I found myself amongst their article photos, sporting my ‘resting bitch face’, as my friends often tease me, in all my blue naked glory.
(photo: GETTY | COSMOPOLITAN)
Inspired by the ‘Subway Therapy‘ art project comprised of post-its, creators Andy Golub, producer of NYC Bodypainting Day and Matthew Chavez, the street artist behind the subway project, thought it would be a great way for people to express themselves. And what better way than through their chosen words of affirmation and our bodies + that we did! But don’t you believe for a second, my decision to participate was an easy one to make.
(photo: cause and yvette)
Building Up The Courage To Go Bare
Three weeks prior to the event, after seeing the ad with photos of past models, I became interested. I noticed the different statements across their torsos. And immediately, I thought,what I would write across mine?’. The only quote that popped into my head was by Nina Simone. I had seen a late Sixties interview of hers. When asked what freedom meant to her, she replied, “I’ll tell you what Freedom means to me. No fear.”
Freedom = No Fear
No other words could capture part of my journey, better than those when it came to body positivity. But my artist didn’t think they would all fit on my ‘body note’. So, I compromised and shortened it to read ‘FREEDOM = NO FEAR” as seen above.
After receiving my email confirming my pre-registration, I replied if a thong was going to be provided? They replied, “No – It’s full nude but you’ll be in good company.” Now, I struggled with the idea of not doing it as I had a problem with being fully naked. But, I kept thinking, “I need to step out of my comfort zone.” And as Andy told New York Daily News, “Everyone feels that being naked is such a big thing but in reality that’s just who we are,” adding, “When you experience this, it quickly becomes no big deal,” + indeed it wasn’t, as seen here in one of the newspaper’s photos.
(photo: Shannon Stapleton, Reuters|NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Getting My Body Ready For The ‘World’
After agreeing with myself that I was going to do this, I knew that my body needed a little boost. You see, I had not been consistent with exercising and wanted to look my best. For the next three weeks, I worked out harder just to look a little better naked for the ‘big reveal’. But let’s face it, not much was going to drastically change overnight.
I have a five foot by five-foot mirror in my living room. Every time I pass by it, I look at myself and my body. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to the kitchen or getting ready to go out. I always sneak a peek, no matter what. So you can imagine my obsession during this time prior to my Times Square nakedness. Sometimes, I would even look into the mirror, with my back turned, bent forward, walking back to see how much cellulite was visible on the back of my thighs. Yeah, crazy, I know.
Having Latina Curves And High Fashion Taste
For me, the way my body looked was a major issue for most of my life. As a Dominican-American Latina, my weight was never an issue-the curvier the better. Growing up, having curves was something to celebrate especially in my family. I never saw a problem with how my body looked, no matter how big my hips, legs, cheeks or butt became.
Born and raised in New York City, one of the most fashionable cities in the world, my first glimpse of high fashion, ironically, was a variation of my first name – Yves. My love for high fashion was ignited by an early memory of a model in a Yves Saint Laurent pantsuit, sans blouse. I don’t remember if it was in a movie or from a magazine, but it changed my life. From that moment on, I was hooked. Of course, you never would’ve guessed that after seeing half of my childhood pics. I was a late, late bloomer, with braces, wait for it, ‘headgear’, and glasses to add to my mystique.
(photo: cause and yvette)
But Where Did My Curves Fit In High Fashion?
As I grew older and got more into fashion, my ideas of beauty and how my body fit into all that, changed and unfortunately, became distorted. I still wanted the curves, but, with the thinness of the models, I saw everywhere, caused me to question a disconnect. The thing is when you have an hourglass figure, the way clothes hang on you is very different than how they hang on someone thin.
My body started changing. My weight fluctuated through the years marked by the strategically placed stretch marks that ravaged my body. But that didn’t come as a surprise. Stretch marks are sometimes given birth by sporadic weight gain and weight loss. To make peace with my stretch marks, I dedicated a poem to them. After that, I started calling them ‘my friends’, as they became a part of me, making my body their home.
And I tell you this when I was standing naked in Times Square, I didn’t care who was keeping count of how many I had or how dimpled my butt or thighs looked, especially when painted all blue, my color of choice. Wanting to channel Mystique from the X-Men, I chose blue for my body and yellow for my ‘body note’ square. The blue, however, turned out to be more Na’vi from Avatar, but, I still went for it. My paint job was complete and I was happy being blue. I was so in love with the blue and the experience, I rode the subway back home, still all blue, dressed in my clothes and navy shades (at least those matched).
(photo: Anthony Delmundo|NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
The Day To ‘Go Naked’ Arrives
That Friday, I methodically picked out an outfit that was easy to take off and put back on. I decided to wear Italian dance pants with a drawstring waist, a tee shirt, and flip-flops. I didn’t wear any makeup as I was going to be all blue in a few hours.
Once I arrived, in a body shaking with nerves, I proceeded to check myself in. All checked in, I made my way to the painting supplies table. There, I picked up my blue and yellow paints, sponges, paintbrushes, and a towel to stand over.
I found a spot and laid down my towel. But as I looked around, I noticed something. Never have I’ve seen so many amateur photographers and phones held high at ten in the morning. That part was a bit unnerving. However, I wasn’t going to let that stop me to do what I came to do!
“Paint Your Genitals First!”
I first pulled down my pants revealing my thong underwear (usually all I wear). Then the tee came off, followed by my bra and underwear. Starting with my arms, I began dabbing blue paint on my body. Then I hear this event organizer yell out to paint our genitals first. A volunteer body painter eventually made her way to help me completely transform. And I’ll never forget how sweet she was. If I needed something from the ground, she made sure to get it for me. Since I was naked, I had no business to bend for anything.
Orange, blue and yellow naked people surrounded me and by this point, I was all blue. All of these people were smiling because they were giving their pride of who they were a ‘voice’. ‘Body Notes’ like ‘INTROVERTS ARE AWESOME’ sweetened the car exhaust-filled air. The traffic of cars stopped intermittently to catch a glimpse of all of our naked painted bodies. You couldn’t help but smile and enjoy the process of being part of something like this. As part of American society, we all struggle with loving ourselves. But, as it’s so true what RuPaul says at the end of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’,
“If you can’t love yourself how in the hell you gonna be able to love someone else?”
If you could get your naked body painted, what would you have chosen as your ‘Body Note’ + why? I’d love to know in the comments. Paint me curious!